Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Testimony: How It All Started

First, a little background.

I have always known - always had a testimony - of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It seems that I've always known he is the Savior and Redeemer of the World. I thank my parents for helping me to know that from early on. My mom is Russian Orthodox, and my Dad was raised Church of England. Growing up, we attended a few different churches, focusing mostly on the Methodist church, but sometimes going to the Russian Orthodox church at Christmas and Easter. But overall, we were not very regular in our church attendance. But I was taught to pray, and I believe that went a long way toward helping me to recognize the Spirit.

Once I was a young adult, I searched for the truth in various places. The closest I came, it seemed, was in the non-denominational Christian churches. However, something important was missing for me there - the spirit didn't seem right, and it seemed to me to be more of a group "feel-good" session than a true religious lifestyle centered on Christ and His teachings. The messages promulgated in these settings came from various modernized translations of the New Testament, but could probably have been issued as "good philosophies" from any other source just as easily. They lacked the distinctive connection to the Savior that I craved. I don't mean to speak poorly of these other churches - they just weren't working for me.

Having a desire to know the truth, but starting to lose my direction in life just a little (I'd started going to bars, drinking, staying out late) I ended up gaining my testimony of the restored Gospel late in the summer of 1993, from a very unlikely source. You could say that the truth found me.

The woman I was dating at the time was an extremely inactive member of the Church - in fact, I met her in a bar. Although she was unrecognizable as a member, and had abandoned the Church in practice, she must have still believed at some level, because she gave me a Book of Mormon.

The first thing I read was the prophet Joseph Smith's testimony of the First Vision (found in the Pearl of Great Price). I knew right away that what Joseph Smith said was true. I knew it was true because the Holy Ghost witnessed to me, directly, spirit-to-spirit, with an amazing power. And that knowledge has only grown stronger in me over the years, bolstered by a thorough study of doctrine, careful reading of the scriptures, regular prayer, and undeniable personal experiences.

Since I immediately knew that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, it followed logically that the Book of Mormon was true. So I read it without skepticism, knowing that what I was reading was an inspired translation of actual ancient records.

I nearly finished the Book of Mormon in 1993, but unfortunately, I allowed my life circumstances to get in the way, and I put it aside until 1996.

When I first started attending the LDS church in about 1996, the experience was very different from what I had had in the non-denominational "Christian Fellowships." I quickly realized what had been missing in those other churches: the Holy Spirit. I felt it strongly in the LDS sacrament meetings, and I felt truly at home for the first time in my life. Indeed, I was home.

That year, I picked up the Book of Mormon again and this time I finished it, and felt strongly inspired to call the missionaries and get baptized. So, I took the "missionary discussions" at a friend's house who was a member of the local ward, and on December 14, 1996, I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Since that time, I have been a faithful member of the Church. In December 1996, I was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood. In the spring of 1997, I received my Patriarchal Blessing. In June 1997, I was ordained an Elder, receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood. On February 27, 1999 I was endowed in the Portland Oregon temple. On April 16, 2002, I was sealed for time and eternity to my beautiful wife, Jean, in the Salt Lake temple. I attend church every Sunday (with practically no exceptions), and also spend some of my time during the week serving in my callings.

I have served in many callings in the Church, including secretary in an Elders Quorum presidency, a counselor in an Elders Quorum presidency, Primary teacher, Ward Missionary, Ward Mission Leader, and counselor in a Branch Presidency for Young Single Adults. I currently serve as an assistant to the Teachers Quorum Advisor, which means that I work with 14 and 15 year old boys who hold the Aaronic Priesthood. (I am also a Home Teacher, and will hold that calling for life.)

This is a summary of how I was introduced to the Gospel, how I came to know it is true, and a general time line of my membership activities. Please stay tuned for some of the many other facets of my testimony, including my testimony of essential Gospel principles including:
I look forward to sharing my very personal thoughts and feelings on these 18 subjects (and many more) over the next few weeks.

Being the first member in my family, it is important to me to share my thoughts and feelings on these things with family, friends, and strangers. But especially my family.

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My Family

My Family
THIS is what it's all about. (July 2013)

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